Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yolanda

This is a long post, but here are interesting things I heard from the survivors (I have no way of verifying the following, just know that these are straight from the families I took home from #OplanHatid



1. From the Pacheco family, Sta. Fe, Leyte: They said that people were planning to evacuate, but were told that the storm will hit in the afternoon.  However, strong winds started at 6:00 AM, I guess the eye was going to hit by the afternoon but the wind hours before that were too strong already. No one knew.
2. Also from the same family: They stayed at home because they were further from the coast than other people and they thought they had a strong firewall. Others went to the church for shelter.  Their entire house got decimated, even the wall, but it was just enough to save their young family of 5. Some of the people who evacuated to the church died under the rubble :(
3. They can't build their own temporary shelters because all the wood AND corrugated steel were shattered. DUROG was the word they used. I couldn't believe it, they said even the really thick corrugated steel were crumpled like paper, and that people are trying to shelter under pilapils (I think these are the stalks left after rice has been gathered, dried and will no longer be used). Completely insufficient (TARPS PLEASE!)
4. Three quarters of the cement road to the airport were washed away by the waves. Slabs of cement, taken by water.
5. There are no coconut trees or even kamoteng kahoy left anywhere (a tuber similar to sweet potato).  They were all washed away (even food underground).  There was no way for them to feed themselves at all.
6. There is deep well water (poso negro) from one barangay, 2 KM away. People were getting sick because the water needed purifying. They don't have money for gas burners, and no available wood to kindle properly so they couldn't boil the water. (The wood were too soaked and useless, remember there was another storm after Yolanda)
7. I told my next passengers about the anger in Manila regarding the politicians repacking goods with their names BEFORE giving it away. All of them said, THERE WAS NO SUCH THING. They are from different areas: Tolosa and Alang Alang Leyte, so at least in those areas it didn't happen.  They were hanging out in Tacloban for a couple days as well before getting into the plane.  In fact, the initial goods (for immediate relief) delivered by government to the barangays for distribution were not repacked by the LGUs, and 7 people died in Alang Alang, fighting over the sacks of rice (again, I can't verify this, these are all stories from survivors).
8. I asked them when help started coming, folks from Tolosa said 2 days, In Alang Alang 1 week.  They were the ones who told me that the relief goods were stuck in Matnog(?) for 3 days.  Kuya Cyril said he passed by it.  They said, there was no helping it, the roads were impassable - and they are much more understanding of the government's efforts than we are.
9. They said the the gunfights in Tacloban are NPA related. So instead of saving people like our army wanted, they are having to fight these rebels instead, as the NPA were trying to seize the relief goods :(  The lawlessness were due to the convicts who escaped.
10. 2 liters of water diluted gasoline costs PHP 300. People who were able to loot from the malls were selling the goods at a high price. Tsk, tsk.
11. They said that it wasn't desperation from hunger that led people to looting - it was simply that they are evil.  Why will you loot air conditioning units, and cellphones? On day one? And they trashed ATM machines and killed each other over the cash (they suspect the escaped convicts again).  People were helping other people escape these madmen, that is why there is such a stampede to get to the planes. That is why, literally rain or shine, no one moves from their place in line.
12. There is now a curfew in Tacloban, so far they think the peace is holding.

The common thing I noticed, from every family I took home, is that they kept talking about how to help people back in the Visayas. Even if they just went through all that trauma themselves - these people still want to help others. It is really humbling. It's no wonder volunteer drivers kept going back and looking for other families to take home. If you need a pick me upper - go and volunteer. The organizers may have changed, and it may have changed because of a selfish few, but that doesn't really matter.  We are not doing it for the government or ourselves. We are doing it for the people who thought they've lost all hope - until they were welcomed, fed, given clothing, medicine, groceries and fussed over by complete strangers who are willing to search with them for their families in Manila. For them, people in Manila helping them this way is a complete shock.  Let's keep on shocking them. #OplanHatid

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